The investigation of the downed Boeing 737-800 International Airlines of Ukraine on January 8 after leaving the airport, killing 176 people, is still ongoing, but official Iran admitted a “catastrophic mistake” three days after the crash. The Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani also talks about it, and the commander of the space forces of the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) Amir Ali Hajizadeh took full responsibility for the crash of the passenger plane. Actually, the fact of the missile launch was obvious, confirmed visually, so Tehran was useless to unlock. At the same time, it is necessary to pay tribute to Iran, which recognized the fact of the downed aircraft and expressed its readiness to pay appropriate compensation.
In the early hours of January 8, the Ukrainian airliner was actually at the epicenter of a military conflict – a few hours before, Iran launched a missile attack on two American bases in Iraq in response to the assassination of its general Qassem Soleimani, and was waiting for a retaliatory attack from the United States. The country’s air defense forces were in a state of full combat readiness and were ready to repel an air strike. Given such a nervous situation, the fingers of Iranian anti-aircraft missile systems operators lay on the Start button, and any mark on the radar screen could have imagined an approaching military target. The Boeing 737 was most likely just confused with a rocket or drone. By the way, the American multi-purpose high-precision cruise missile “Tomahawk” is subsonic (speed is 880 km / h, and when approaching the target it is half as much) and flies at extremely low altitudes. It can be confused with a passenger plane taking off, which rose to a height of just over two kilometers and was located in the immediate vicinity of the control point near Tehran’s airfield.
Iran definitely did not want to intentionally shoot down the Ukrainian liner. Most of the passengers on board were citizens of this country and Canadians of Iranian descent. Again, contradictions between Tehran and Kiev are somehow not observed, so the nationality of the aircraft could not become a reason for launching a missile attack on it. Another thing is that the international airport in Tehran, which was expecting a retaliatory American attack at that time, was not closed to passenger planes and they took off from there with an interval of 20-30 minutes. The liner of Ukraine’s International Airlines also took off, but for some reason a random rocket attack fell on it. Could be any other …
The Iranian air defense forces cannot be called perfect, although the radars are represented by fairly modern stations of Russian, Belarusian, Chinese and Iranian production, designed to control airspace. The most effective anti-aircraft systems and complexes are the Russian S-300PMU-2 air defense systems and the Tor-M1 air defense systems (deliveries were completed in 2007), of which the Ukrainian airliner is supposed to have been shot down. The new Iranian air defense systems Bavar-373, 15th Khordad, Talash, Mersad-16 and several others are also in service. They allow you to close the airspace over many regions of the country, major cities, military facilities, centers of the oil and nuclear industry. At the same time, the air defense forces are organizationally located both in the Iranian army and in the aerospace forces of the IRGC. For general control, there is the operational command of a unified air defense system. It can be assumed that on January 8 there was a kind of “system failure”, that is, the missiles were switched to manual control mode and the KSIR air defense worked out separate tasks. As a result, a tragic error occurred.
In the history of aviation, the cases of civilian aircraft shot down by military means are a well-known but not common practice – deliberately airliners rarely shoot down intentionally. On July 27, 1955, the Lockheed L-049 aircraft of the Israeli airline El Al, flying from Vienna to Tell Aviv, violated the airspace of Bulgaria and was shot down by fighters near the city of Petrich. 58 people were killed. The Bulgarian government acknowledged the error and apologized and also paid compensation.
On February 21, 1973, the Libyan Boeing 727, which was shot down by fighters, erroneously entered the airspace of Israel. Israel paid families of 108 dead people compensation. June 27, 1980 in the Tyrrhenian Sea (off the coast of Italy) DC-9 crashed, 81 people died. A long-term investigation led to the conclusion that the liner was an accidental victim of an air battle between NATO and Libya. Italy was ordered to pay seven dead victims compensation. July 3, 1988 the passenger Airbus A-320 of the Iranian airline Iran Air crashed in the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people flying from Bandar Abbas to Dubai. According to the official statement of Washington, the liner was mistaken for an Iranian military aircraft. On October 4, 2001, the Tu-154 of Siberia Airlines crashed over the Black Sea, flying on the Tel Aviv-Novosibirsk route, 78 people died. It was found that the plane was unintentionally shot down by a Ukrainian missile during an air defense exercise. Kiev did not agree with this version for a long time, but in the end, pleaded guilty and paid compensation to the families of the deceased, while ignoring the airline’s claim for damage.
The last on this list is the Malaysia Airlines passenger Boeing 777 flight, flying along the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur route, which was interrupted on July 17, 2014 in the sky over the Donbass. 298 people were killed. An international investigation (including evidence from Russian experts) found that the airliner was shot down from the Buk air defense system, which is in service for Ukraine and Russia. Separatists from Donbass would never have such an expensive technique. Kiev insists that the missile was launched from territory controlled by the militants of the DPR. The Russian Defense Ministry insists that the launch was made from the territory controlled by the Ukrainian military. Nobody still takes responsibility.
We can mention the Korean Boeing 747 shot down on September 1, 1983 in the sky over Sakhalin, which was performing an international flight along the route New York – Anchorage – Seoul, on board of which there were 246 passengers and 23 crew members. The liner deviated from the route by more than 500 kilometers and entered the Soviet air defense zone. It was shot down by missiles of a Su-15 fighter-interceptor, the pilot of which for a number of reasons took him for a reconnaissance aircraft. The catastrophe, which caused an already serious aggravation of relations between the USSR and the USA, soon ceased to be an occasion to clarify the causes of the tragedy. In December 1990, during the visit of the President of the Republic of Korea, Roh Tae-woo, to Moscow, President of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev formally apologized to the Korean side for the disaster of that flight.
It seems that even now official Tehran is not going to seriously punish for an accidentally shot down Ukrainian liner. Iran once recognized its mistake in time and did not begin to absolve itself of guilt. Apologies are brought, compensations will be paid – the incident, if you can call this terrible tragedy, will soon be exhausted. Public flogging is canceled. Moreover, literally the day after the disaster, Washington announced its readiness to sit at the negotiating table with Tehran without preconditions. According to Kelly Kraft, US Permanent Representative to the UN, the US “is ready, without preconditions, to begin serious negotiations with Iran in order to prevent further threats to international peace and security or escalation from the Iranian regime.”